Breaking Up Is So Hard To Do   Leave a comment

I have often been asked whether I write myself in when doing a novel. My answer usually goes along the line of ‘how can I not?’ The creation of a living character is only possible if that character, to its creator, is a real, breathing person. I have lived with Delsey for about six years – much longer than some marriages – and together we have reached the point where we must part ways.

It’s not easy. Very few divorces, I would argue, including those that involve a bare-knuckle brawl, are without remorse. After all, at some point in time you looked forward to walking the aisle with him/her, so it’s inevitable that you look back and wonder…

Delsey and I are not getting divorced. We’re just each going our own separate way. I am, and fully expect to remain, happily married to a woman who I love deeply, and who is decidedly not the creation of my own imagination, albeit, mayhaps, the victim.

Before I get too sappy here, let me explain just a little. When I first started writing fiction, I did a series of short stories, writing for myself more than anything else. (They have been published as an anthology; the title is Murphy’s Bar and Grille. Most are dreadful.) When I decided to embark on my first full-length novel, three characters from those stories hitched a ride, and each landed a supporting role. Bridge to Someday became the first volume in what grew into the Delsey Trilogy. Honest In’jun, I didn’t set out to write three hundred thousand plus words, spread out into three covers. But with the publication of Johnson Canyon, that is what it has come to.

Perhaps I followed closely in her footsteps, but I maintain Delsey is the one who has told the story. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. There are numerous passages told from a Point Of View that she could not access, but that’s why we authors are recognized as deities.

Nonetheless, I have cheered at her triumphs and wept at her travails, and have lost sleep over the demise of several of those who did not make it to the final chapters. (You can ask my wife about that part. She says I kept her awake too, those nights.) I have stood by Delsey from her days as a reckless youth to a mature woman, capable of starting a business and raising stepchildren, both successfully. Not everything came easily for her, in fact nothing did. “Delsey’s a slut,” said my friend Sam, after he’d read an early draft of the first book. I’m sure that, based on that read, she was all of that. She acted impulsively, with disastrous consequences that left her unsure of her own ability to manage herself within a relationship.

I am beginning to understand why some authors create characters that go merrily from one novel to the next, either solving crimes or committing them along the way. Saying goodbye is tough – damn tough – and if you can simply let your creation open another door then parting is not needed. When Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee (both pennames themselves) set out to create Ellery Queen, they probably did not expect the result to be a franchise that outlived both. Their super-sleuth evolved over the years, but then so did Delsey.

Can an author just up and leave their own creation, and in particular do it with no remorse, no looking back, no thoughts of ‘I wonder what she is doing right now?’ Can a lover of past years be abandoned any easier? If that lover was truly loved, then I say the answer is a resounding ‘No.’ There will always be some shadow of wonderment, a curiosity of how else things might have turned out, had life’s labyrinthine path been different. To an author, a fully developed character is flesh and blood, and their path just as real.

Having said that, I still maintain that if the author’s underlying subject matter is human relationships, then a literary parting must come at some point: if the story continues ad nauseam then nobody’s going to follow it. After Delsey and I last shook hands she climbed onto the train back to Tribeca and I hit the road for Maine. At that time, she was quite prepared to face the future, whatever it might be. A writer’s group friend suggested I could culminate the series with ‘Delsey, The Nursing Home Years.’ I’m not going there. Three is enough. I know she’ll be fine without me. But the parting is still tough.

JD Rule,  Lubec Maine,  January 2014

Posted January 16, 2014 by JD Rule

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